Based upon Jacques Tardi’s historical based fantasy comic book, Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec, this film takes place in the secret history of our world before the first World War. Today, we’d call the style of Tardi’s comic steampunk, but don’t let that name sway you: this movie is awesome.
Two of Tardi’s stories inspired this movie: Adèle and the Beast and Mummies on Parade, so this film takes place in 1912 Paris.
Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element, Léon: The Professional, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) is one of the foremost creators in the cinéma du look style which Wikipedia claims favors “style over substance, spectacle over narrative.” His visual style dominates everything he creates, including this movie, which is the film that The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen should have been.
Let me see if I can sum up the craziness that this piece of cinema contains. Professor Espérandieu (Philippe Nahon, who played the nameless butcher in three Gaspar Noé films, Carne, I Stand Alone and Irréversible) hatches a pterodactyl which ends up killing a politician who is having an affair in a taxicab with a showgirl. The President of France demands that the National Police handle the sightings of the dinosaur, with Inspector Albert Caponi handling the investigation.
We finally meet our heroine, Adèle Blanc-Sec, who works as a travel writer and is on a quest to find the mummified Patmosis, who was the doctor for Pharoah Ramses II. It turns out that she wants to revive the famous physician to save the life of her sister Agathe, who has had a tennis accident. Her arch enemy Professor Dieuleveult (Mathieu Amalric, Quantum of Solace) also wants the mummy, but she defeats him and travels back to Paris.
She needs Professor Espérandieu’s help to revive the mummy, but he’s now on death row as he’s been blamed for the dinosaur attacks. However, big game hunter Justin de Saint-Hubert is trying to kill the flying monster while Andrej Zborowski (Nicolas Giraud, Taken) wants to save it. Just as Espérandieu is to be executed, Adèle and Zborowski tame the pterodactyl and fly it to the rescue.
While enjoying tea with the revived mummy, we learn that he was really a physicist, not a physician, so he is unable to help revive Agathe. However, Saint-Hubert fatally shoots the pterosaur along with Espérandieu.
Adèle and Patmosis go to the Louvre, where they revive all of the mummies, including the Pharoah, who revives Agathe. Deciding that he wants to see Paris, the undead Egyptian leads his entire court into the night.
After all that adventure, Adèle decides to relax on a cruise. But as we see her nemesis with an evil grin, we learn that she’s on the Titanic! What a set up for a sequel, as is the credits scene where Ménard tries to get his revenge on Saint-Hubert.
I really loved this movie. It’s kind of amazing that it got such a limited release in the U.S. because it’s such an imaginative film. It also looks gorgeous, with perfectly integrated effects. Plus, I laughed several times during this and the humor didn’t get in the way of the tale.
This film was intended to be the first of three films, but it’s been a few years since it was made. When asked by Den of Geek in 2016 if there would be a sequel, Besson said, “I would love to, because I love this character Adèle. She’s basically the grandmother of Indiana Jones. But it was in French and it’s difficult in France to do films with a certain kind of budget because it’s just in French. But I hope we can.”